In the late '40s, Peter Lorre, harassed by the House Un-American Activities Committee and suffering a decline in his career, returned to Germany where a journalist friend told him a true story that became the basis for the one film he directed, "The Lost One" ("Der Verlorene"). Unfortunately, its title was all too apt: German audiences weren't ready to confront the implications of World War II on the screen, and it promptly disappeared.
"The Lost One" (1951) surfaced impressively at the 1983 Filmex, and now it screens Tuesday and Wednesday at the Nuart along with Fritz Lang's "M" (1932). This is an ideal pairing, for they are virtually companion films. Lorre is a compulsive murderer in both, a symbol for the Nazi madness anticipated and then seen in retrospect.
"The Lost One" isn't the innovative masterpiece "M" is. As a director Lorre hadn't the vision of Lang--but then few have--and his use of flashbacks is ponderous. Even so, Lorre the actor and Lorre the director, working from a script by various hands, draw you into this somberest of works. Lorre is working as a physician in a refugee camp near Hamburg as an act of expiation when his past catches up with him. As an eminent immunologist in the service of the Third Reich, Lorre strangles a suspected traitor (none other than his silly fiancee) only to discover that it's a turn on. However, here Lorre is as calm a serial killer as he was frenzied in "M." Lorre looks as ravaged as the film's war-torn settings. Phones: 478-6379, 479-5269.
You might think that a pair of early '30s movies dealing with the plight of an unwed mother would be very similar, but that's not the case with "Born to Be Bad" (1933) and "Common Clay" (1930), which the Vagabond has exhumed from the Fox vaults and is presenting Friday and Saturday only. To take the kindly view, "Common Clay," virtually a photographed play, can be regarded as a victim of the static camerawork that plagued the very early talkies. Director Victor Fleming, screenwriter Jules Furthman (who adapted Cleves Kinkead's play) and stars Constance Bennett (poor but pretty) and Lew Ayres (rich but irresponsible) all had important credits behind them as well as ahead of them; in 1939 alone Fleming would direct "Gone With the Wind" and "The Wizard of Oz."
Directed from Ralph Graves' zesty script by Lowell Sherman, "Born to Be Bad" has considerable verve. A very sexy, uninhibited Loretta Young stars as a totally cynical young woman with a 7-year-old son (Jackie Kelk) that she bore at 15. She's determined to exploit rich, gentlemanly Cary Grant in any way she can. Ironically, in "Common Clay" the rich are presented as terrible hypocrites; here, as represented by Grant and his selfless wife (Marian Burns) they are the acme of goodness. Young and Grant are terrific from start to finish; her elegant gowns are by Gwen Wakeling. Phone: 387-2171.
Robert Aldrich's "World for Ransom" (1954), which screens Thursday at 5:30 at UCLA Melnitz in the All of Aldrich series, is a B movie in its purest form, shot for Allied Artists in nine days on a $120,000 budget. Even Edgar Ulmer himself couldn't have been more resourceful than Aldrich in his spinning of this tale of foreign intrigue set in Singapore and involving the kidnaping of a scientist described as "one of the four men in the whole world who know how to detonate an H bomb." "World for Ransom" grew out of the Dan Duryea China Smith TV series, for which Aldrich directed many segments; here Duryea is called Mike Callahan. What lifts it out of the ordinary is its unexpectedly ironic finish and the stunning film noir camera work by Aldrich favorite Joseph Biroc, who demonstrates just how much a gifted cinematographer working in black-and-white can bring to a low-budget film. Another plus: its Hollywood British colony supporting cast. The heavy is the usually avuncular Gene Lockhart. "World for Ransom" will be followed by two of Aldrich's best, "The Big Knife" (1955) and "Autumn Leaves" (1956). Phone: 825-2345.